On Friday, September 14, the world was given its first opportunity to pre-order the illustrious iPhone 5. Not familiar with it? It’s Apple’s latest smart phone, which features a slightly larger screen to showcase an extra row of apps you won’t use. And I couldn’t wait to have it.
I’d waited two plus years with a 3G S – produced sometime in the B.C. years, I recall – and waited with envy as my friends scraped up the iPhone 4, and then the iPhone 4S, while I sat back with my archaic, so-called ‘smart’ phone. (A 3G S in 2012 is like a 12th grader at a 1st grade reading level. Embarrassing.)
So you could imagine my excitement as I was logging in to the Apple website that morning. I navigated carefully through my new options – although I already knew where I was headed – and observed a buffet of acronyms to identify the phone’s new features. No matter; that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here because this thing is awesome. (I bet it’s awesome.)
After two plus years with a black 3G S, I opted for a white iPhone 5. (In the future, I wonder if they’ll make a gray one that blends the two colors. Apple is so progressive that way.)
Anyway, I made a lot of decisions on Friday, and I’d say my selection of ‘white’ ranked high on the importance list. And just like that, the iPhone 5 was in my shopping cart. Finally. With the click of a button, I was just one week away from the latest in smart phone glory! And what do I do?
I stalled. I didn’t click ‘purchase.’
Out of the blue, I was overcome by an unexpected, unsettling feeling. I felt – well, guilty. Uhh. How did this happen?
To no fault of Apple’s own, the company has created more than a business. It’s created a cultural empire out of tech products that are both attractive and easy to use. But that’s not their victory; it’s more than that. A vast majority of Apple products are purchased not by purists in search of quality, but by those in search of a tangible confidence booster; a big kid’s pacifier. Somewhere along the way, the ‘i’ product line became a Band-Aid for a fragile ego that’s more in search of cache than quality; our generation’s equivalent to Air Jordans in the 90s.
Is there anything inherently wrong with Apple’s empire? No. They’re good at what they do and they produce, on the whole, extremely high quality products.
But as I sat there prepared to spend $200 to $300 on my new phone, I wasn’t thinking about quality. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about 4G LTE, what an aluminum ‘body’ is good for, or if the iPhone 5 gets better battery life than an alternative option. And frankly, I didn’t care. That’s not what I was buying it for.
I wanted it because it was new; not because I needed a new phone. It would definitely work better than the one I have, even though there’s nothing truly ‘wrong’ with the one I have.
But as I sat there, waiting to buy my glass of the Kool-Aid, I had a change of heart. I decided not to buy it, though I readily admit I still may in the near future.
In that moment, though, I felt defiant; like I was taking a stand against a power that had overcome my peers – and me too, for that matter. Guilty, though, too, as I realized I was in a race to have the ‘it’ item that I never really ‘needed’ to begin with. For a generation of individuals, we do a fine job of conforming when we think we can justify it.
And I questioned why I continue to pay $1.29 per song on iTunes when I could get it for much less on another site. And with 7,900+ songs in my library – and yes, I pay for my music – the savings might be significant. I also wondered how I had let a single company lull me into complacency; that I’d willfully pay more for devices and songs without ever considering there was another option.
In that moment, I felt like I was ‘better’ than that. But am I? Or am I just putting up a half-hearted fight against the machine so that I’ll feel less guilty about it when I finally do give in?